US President Donald Trump. Picture: REUTERS
US President Donald Trump. Picture: REUTERS

Washington — The leading attorney on US President Donald Trump’s legal team, John Dowd, resigned on Thursday amid growing pressure on the White House from the Russia investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller.

Dowd quit days after Trump directly attacked Mueller’s investigation as a "witch hunt", raising questions about whether the president was interfering with the probe.

In an e-mail, Dowd confirmed his departure to AFP, saying "I love the president and wish him well." Dowd was the lead attorney for Trump’s team dealing with Mueller, who is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians during the 2016 presidential election.

As part of that, Mueller is also investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, and his team of investigators has been in talks on arranging an interview with the president. The White House legal team, however, has reportedly split over how much to co-operate with Mueller’s investigators and how much to fight them.

On Friday, in a statement to a reporter that he said was in Trump’s name, Dowd called for Mueller to "bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation". He charged that the investigation "manufactured" and based on "fraudulent and corrupt" evidence.

Hours later, Dowd reversed himself, saying he was speaking in his personal capacity and not for the president.

In a weekend Twitter attack, Trump took direct aim at Mueller, a former FBI director whose nine-month-old collusion investigation increasingly focuses on the president, his family and top aides.

"The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime," Trump wrote. He accused Mueller’s team of being staffed by "hardened Democrats" and as having "massive conflicts of interest". In response, several top legislators warned Trump against firing Mueller, with Senator Lindsey Graham warning that "that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency".